The Chairman of the Marshall County Regional Sewer Board appeared before the County Commissioners on Monday with an update from the meeting he recently had with the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Committee. Committee members are Chairman Commissioners Stan Klotz, and Council members Nicole Cox, Jesse Bohannon, and Tim Harman.
Tom McFadden told the commissioners the meeting was “interesting” as he was requesting $100,000 in APR Funds to get the sewer district up and running. He told the commissioners, “I never thought building sewers in Marshall County for the health and safety of its residents would be controversial, but I found that out. I almost thought I was Daniel in the lion’s den.” Tom’s characterized the Council members on the committee as having a “thinly veiled dislike for the program.” He continued by saying, “One comment made was, this was created by some lame duck legislation.” Another comment was, “There were promises were made that there would be no tax money used.” His opinion was that no local or state tax dollars would be used and said ARP money is federal grant money that was initially designated for infrastructure such as water, sewer, and fiber. McFadden said his understanding is that if the funds aren’t used, they will be sent back to the federal government.
Comments by the committee were that lake people will see their property values increase and McFadden said that is a benefit to all taxpayers because more money is coming into the county so others would pay less. As for some lake residents not living here full time, he again said they pay more in property tax because they don’t have the benefit of the homestead exemption.
Commissioner Stan Klotz told the other commissioners that the committee’s recommendation was to give the regional sewer district a loan of $100,000 to get started and have them pay it back when they secure their bond for their first projects.
McFadden wasn’t aware of the recommendation because the committee didn’t discuss it while he was at the meeting. The County Auditor Angie Birchmeier said she would have to check with the State Board of Accounts to see if the county could even do a loan.
Commissioner Kevin Overmyer said he was still inclined to give the Sewer District the money the APR funds. He said, “We’re not in the banking business, and if we loan money to them what’s to stop someone else asking us to loan them money for something else.” Overmyer explained that once the project is decided it will be paid for by user fees in the district and not by other citizens around Marshall County.
Commissioner Mike Burroughs said I initially voted for the project and to fund it out of ARP Funds and he still feels that way.
Commissioner Stan Klotz said, “I said all along I thought we should pay to set the district up, but I question some of the fees in the request. Going forward will they benefit one district more than the others? I have a problem with that because then you start picking winners and losers.” He felt some of the engineering costs would benefit the first district and the other districts to follow wouldn’t have that benefit.
Mr. McFadden said the legal fee will benefit everyone in the regional sewer district because that will create the district. The financial fees are the same way. The financial consultants will help us with a bond issue and find sources of additional revenues to keep the projects moving forward. He said the initial engineering will benefit the first project and down the line.
The motion was made and unanimously approved to send the request back to the County Council to fund the Regional Sewer District using the ARP Funds. The Council won’t see the request until their August meeting.
Commissioner Overmyer commented that if the council doesn’t approve this funding using the APR Funds that he won’t take another plan for the APR Committee and will have the remaining funds set back to the federal government at the end of 2024. He said, “I’m not in favor of spending any more ARPA money until they (Regional Sewer) are funded.”